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# Monday, October 15, 2007
Who uses Hebrew dates?
Posted by Grace

Q While exploring a Jewish cemetery in Cincinnati recently I noticed much variation among the inscriptions on tombstones. Is there a particular date when families started using Gregorian dates rather than Hebrew dates on graves?

A Schelly Talalay Dardashti, whose blog, Tracing the Tribe, is a formidable source for researching Jewish roots, says the choice to use secular or Hebrew dates depends on a few things: historical period, location, and the family's affiliation and level of religious observance.

"In ancient days in Europe, dates would have been only in Hebrew, with the year written using the Hebrew alphabet characters for the numbers. In some cemeteries today, you may find only the secular dates," she says. "In the great pre-Holocaust Jewish communities throughout Europe, most old sections of Jewish cemeteries will show Hebrew-only inscriptions, while newer sections may have secular dates. It was a personal choice even though custom and tradition indicated the use of Hebrew."

Today, some assimilated families might feel the Hebrew date is not important, as the family isn't religious. In isolated areas, there may be no masons who can properly carve Hebrew inscriptions. "Using Hebrew dates means the family understands the Jewish calendar and what one must do on the anniversary of the individual's death," she says. "Synagogue observances, prayers, candles at home and visits to cemetery according to the Hebrew calendar date of death."

Cincinnati was the hotbed of German Reform Judaism in America—it's the home of the Hebrew Union College, which ordains Reform Jewish clergy. The German Jews who settled there were very assimilated, Talalay Dardashti says.

The deceased individual might have left instructions to do things one way or the other, but the children may decide if left with no instructions, she says. But when it comes down to it, picking a style of dates is a personal choice unless cemetery regulations stipulate them.

For more resources on Jewish heritage, check out Family Tree Magazine's August 2006 issue.

To easily convert Hebrew dates, you can use Steve Morse's Jewish Calendar Conversions in One Step and tombstone decipherer. JewishGen.org has a great tutorial on reading Hebrew tombstones here.

Want to share your own pictures from your cemetery visits? Come on over to the Cemetery Central Forum.


cemeteries
Monday, October 15, 2007 3:45:16 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, October 05, 2007
Tracking down Contact Information
Posted by Grace

Q I want to contact a person who posted on a genealogy message board a few years ago, but the e-mails bounce back. How can I get in touch with this person?

A It happens all too often: A Web search for an ancestor turns up a nugget of information on a message board, but when you try to contact the person—no dice. First, check out the poster's user profile. If it includes a personal Web site, visit to look for updated contact information. If you're not that lucky, look next for a full name in the profile or the original posting.

You can then search for the name in an online directory such as Yahoo! People Search or Switchboard. Doing a Google search for the name may turn up some contact information as well, though this will be more helpful if you're looking for a Heidi Kryschek-Horowitz than if you're scouting a Steve Smith.

Another tactic is to search Google for the person's message board username—people often use the same ID on different sites. GenieFreak293 may show up with more-recent activity on other forums.

You can take this as a lesson in genealogical karma. Whenever you get a new e-mail address, always update your contact information on all the Web sites where you've posted queries. Or sign up for a free, Web-based e-mail account at Gmail or Yahoo! to use just for genealogy correspondence—then you'll never need to change your e-mail address.


black sheep ancestors | Web tips
Friday, October 05, 2007 5:06:07 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, September 21, 2007
Convicts and Indentured Servitude
Posted by Diane

Q My fifth-great-grandfather Nathaniel Tenpenny was convicted of a crime in England in 1764 and sentenced to seven years of indentured servitude in America. He was transported aboard the Tryal the same year. He’s in the 1790 Rowan County, NC, census with his family, but I haven’t been able to find out their names or anything else about him.

A An indentured servant was “bound” to a property owner in exchange for passage to America. Many people indentured themselves. Your ancestor was part of a popular criminal justice trend in England: Punishment by "transportation," or exile to work in America (after the Revolutionary War, Australia became the primary destination).

After England passed the Transportation Act in 1718, courts there sent approximately 60,000 convicts—called "the King's passengers"—to America.

It sounds like you found the information on Nathaniel Tenpenny’s conviction for stealing tools online at The Proceedings of the Old Bailey, London, 1674 to 1834. That site has accounts of more than 100,000 trials at London's central criminal court.

Look for your ancestor’s name in two books by Peter Wilson Coldham:
The Complete Book of Emigrants in Bondage, 1614-1775 and Emigrants in Chains, 1607-1776. Both are $45 from Clearfield Co. You may learn the port where his ship arrived and other details, giving you a starting point.

There’s a good chance your ancestor served his sentence in Maryland or Virginia. According to a 2004 NPR report, 90 percent of the King’s Passengers served their sentences in Maryland and Virginia.

Laws governed indentured servitude (servants who tried to run away or became pregnant, for example, might have their contracts extended), so look for contracts and other documents among court records where your ancestor served. If you learn whom he was indentured to, check the local historical society and university archives for collections of personal papers—they may mention Nathaniel.

To narrow Nathaniel's place of service, research him backward from his most recent known location—North Carolina in the 1790 census. Look for Colonial censuses, land and tax records. Presumably Nathaniel would've been released in the early 1770s. Could he have returned to England temporarily? Stayed in America and fought in the Revolutionary War?

Look for his will, too, which would likely give the names of his children and wife. For additional resources, see the Colonial research article in the February 2006 Family Tree Magazine.

To learn more about prisoners and indentured servants, explore these sites:


black sheep ancestors | court records | immigration
Friday, September 21, 2007 9:31:50 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, September 11, 2007
How Are We Related?
Posted by Diane

Q One of the most frequent questions we receive is “How is my [fill in family member] related to my [fill in family member]?” This week, we’ll help you figure out those familial relationships.

A The key to figuring out how two relatives are related is to trace back to the most recent ancestor they share. For example:

    * first cousins share grandparents
    * second cousins share great-grandparents
    * third cousins share great-great-grandparents

... and so on. But it gets confusing when you start mixing generations—that’s where “removeds” come in. Draw a picture if you have to. For example, say Mark is my sister Sue's son and John is my cousin. This shows Edna is their most recent common ancestor:
Then, figure out how each person is related to the common ancestor. Edna is John’s grandmother and Mark’s great-grandmother.

Then you're ready to use a relationship chart (click to download ours, which goes up to sixth-great-grandparents, as a PDF) or an online tool to figure out the relationship.

To use a chart, look at the top row and pick out one descendant’s relationship to the common ancestor (Mark’s is highlighted in blue in the example below). In the left column, find the relationship for the other descendant (John's is red). Look where the row and column meet: The lavender square shows the boys are first cousins, once removed:



Fortunately, you also can use an online “cousin calculator” such as this one to do the same thing. Just select the relationship of each person to the common ancestor, and you’ll see how they’re related.



Tuesday, September 11, 2007 4:54:11 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
How Are We Related Again?
Posted by Diane

Q One of the most frequent questions we receive is “How is my [fill in family member] related to my [fill in family member]?” This week, we’ll help you figure out those familial relationships.

A The key to figuring out how two relatives are related is to trace back to the most recent ancestor they share. For example:

    * first cousins share grandparents
    * second cousins share great-grandparents
    * third cousins share great-great-grandparents

... and so on. But it gets confusing when you start mixing generations—that’s where “removeds” come in. Draw a picture if you have to. For example, say Mark is my sister Sue's son and John is my cousin. This shows Edna is their most recent common ancestor:

Then, figure out how each person is related to the common ancestor. Edna is John’s grandmother and Mark’s great-grandmother.

Then you're ready to use a relationship chart (click to download ours, which goes up to sixth-great-grandparents, as a PDF) or an online tool to figure out the relationship.

To use a chart, look at the top row and pick out one descendant’s relationship to the common ancestor (Mark’s is highlighted in blue in the example below). In the left column, find the relationship for the other descendant (John's is red). Look where the row and column meet: The lavender square shows the boys are first cousins, once removed:



Fortunately, you also can use an online “cousin calculator” such as this one to do the same thing. Just select the relationship of each person to the common ancestor, and you’ll see how they’re related.



Tuesday, September 11, 2007 4:33:03 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, August 31, 2007
How to Find Records of an Accidental Death
Posted by Diane

Q I have a family note that says Robert Samuel Robinson (born Sept. 18, 1877, in Chaffey, Muskoka County, Ontario, Canada), died in "western USA" Aug. 11, 1901, and that it was a work-related death. It had to do with electricity, according to family story. I'd love to get a copy of a death certificate and any newspaper articles about the accident, and then to really push my luck, a photo of his grave marker. (Posted by Tracy on the FamilyTreeMagazine.com Forum.)

A You may not be lucky enough to find a death certificate, as most states—particularly those in the then-relatively unsettled US West—didn’t mandate recording of deaths until after 1901. (See our chart of statewide vital-recordkeeping dates.) Occasionally, counties or cities recorded deaths before the state required death certificates, so it’s worth checking with the county clerk where he died.

An accidental death also might have generated other records, including coroner’s reports, coroner’s inquests (if the coroner found negligence or intention),
and, as you mentioned, cemetery records and newspaper articles. Depending whom Robert worked for, his employer might’ve had to fill out paperwork for a work-related accident.

It sounds like your first problem is you don’t know where Robert was at the time of his death. You’ll need that information to find coroner’s records, which are kept at city or county coroner offices (they also may have been transferred to the state archives and/or microfilmed by the Family History Library, which has branch Family History Centers around the world).

Finding historical newspaper articles, in most cases, also requires you to know where he lived. You might get lucky and find Robert by searching a database of digitized, indexed newspapers, such as the subscription sites GenealogyBank and World Vital Records (see our news blog for more information on World Vital Records' newspaper databases). But most newspapers haven’t been indexed and digitized, so you’d need to use a directory such as the Library of CongressChronicling America to find newspapers covering his area. Then you could see if a library near you has the paper on microfilm, or try to borrow it through interlibrary loan.

I’d suggest searching a 1900 US census database to see if you can pin down a location for Robert in that year. Continue your research on his earlier life, which could turn up information on where and when he moved to the United States. You also should examine your research and family papers on his parents, siblings and other relatives—information on them might give clues to Robert’s whereabouts.

Check online cemetery records, such as Find A Grave and Cemetery Junction, just in case he’s in one of them. Likely, though, you won't find his burial place until you can learn where he died.

It also might help to do a little historical research on electricity-related happenings in 1901, such as cities that were getting electric power. This article, for example, discusses the dangers of electricity between 1901 and 1909.


birth/death records
Friday, August 31, 2007 2:53:56 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Monday, August 20, 2007
Make a Resolution: Viewing Online Photos
Posted by Diane

Q Momto3boyz asks this question on the FamilyTreeMagazine.com Forum: My cousin put some pictures on a family Web site. When I pull them up, most of them come up in thumbnail sizes. When I try to zoom in or enlarge them so I can see the faces, I lose the sharpness of the pictures. Any suggestions on how I can enlarge these pictures?

A How you can view images on a Web site depends mostly on the person who posted the images.

You could copy the thumbnail images to your desktop by right-clicking on each one, then selecting the Save to Desktop option (on a Mac, you’d control-click the photo or simply drag it onto your desktop). Then you could zoom in by opening the photo in an image viewer such as Picture Viewer (Preview for Macs). But as you've found, you won’t be able to see much detail anyway.

That’s because Web standards call for posting photos at a relatively low resolution of 72 dpi (dots per inch). This reduces a photo’s file size so the Web page won’t take forever to load. So usually, if you try to take an image off most Web sites and enlarge it for your family history book, say, the image looks blurry and pixilated, like this:



Your cousin may have intended to link the thumbnail photos to larger versions of the images (as we did for this Photo Detective column), but forgotten to do so.

Your best bet is to ask your cousin to send you higher-resolution versions of the photos—that means 300 dpi, which is the resolution needed if you want to print out the image with the same dimensions as the original. If you want to print out a larger photo, you'll need an even higher resolution.

When you scan a photo, you can select the resolution in your scanner settings—see the owner's manual for help with this. Likewise, if you have a digital camera, you can set it to take low- or high-resolution photos.

The photo on this Photo Detective blog posting, for example, is high resolution so you can examine its detail. Save it to your desktop, open it an image viewer and zoom in, and you’ll see what I mean.


Preserving Heirlooms and Photos
Monday, August 20, 2007 5:11:49 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, August 14, 2007
Immigrants Who Didn't Arrive at Ellis Island
Posted by Diane

Q My grandfather Anthony Borges was an immigrant from the island Sao Jorge in the Azores [Portugal], and I’m looking for records of his arrival in America. I’ve tried Ellis Island and found nothing. (Posted by Mumsy on the FamilyTreeMagazine.com Forum.)

A Ellis Island is the best-known US immigration port, so many people assume their ancestors arrived there.

Don't stop your search at Ellis Island. Boston, Baltimore, New Orleans and San Francisco also were major immigration ports, but immigrants could arrive in just about any coastal city.

You didn’t say what year your grandfather came to America. Ellis Island opened in 1892 and closed in 1954. And the passenger database you searched covers only arrivals from 1892 to 1924 (you can find this information in the site's search tips).

Sometimes database creators had a hard time reading the original records, so passengers’ names might be misspelled. If you're sure your grandfather arrived at Ellis Island, search for alternate spellings, or use Stephen P. Morse’s Ellis Island One-Step search form.

If you know your ancestor’s port, you can find his passenger record on microfilm at the National Archives and Records Administration, the Family History Library and most large public libraries.

What if you don’t know the port? You can narrow the possibilities by researching his life in the United States. You also may get lucky with a searchable immigration database. The subscription site Ancestry.com has one; a version called Ancestry Library Edition is free at many libraries.

My quick Ancestry.com search returned a Canadian border-crossing record (below) for an Anthony Borges born in 1904 in St. Marie in the Azores. This man arrived first in Canada and traveled to Niagara Fall, NY, on Sept. 7, 1933.


This was the first of many matches for people named Antonio Borges, so if the man in this record isn't your grandfather, try an Ancestry.com search.


immigration
Tuesday, August 14, 2007 8:25:48 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [3]
# Wednesday, August 08, 2007
How to Find Civil War Records in State Archives
Posted by Diane

Q I have my ancestors’ Civil War service records from the National Archives and Records Administration. Do military records offered by some states contain different information? I’m wondering whether it’s worthwhile to check those records, too.

A State archives’ Civil War collections often differ greatly from the Compiled Military Service Records (CMSRs) and pension files available from NARA.

States may hold soldiers' letters, regimental histories, Civil War-era newspapers, Grand Army of the Republic post records, veterans' cemetery indexes, soldiers' home records and more. (Archives of formerly Confederate states also have pension records. Those aren’t at NARA because the federal government didn’t pay Confederate soldiers’ pensions.)

For example, the Ohio archives has correspondence to the state’s governor and adjutant general dating from 1859 through 1862 (series 147, volume 42). In May and June, 1862, Col. John W. Fuller and Maj. Z.S. Spaulding of the Ohio Volunteer Infantry 27th Regiment wrote Adjutant General C.W. Hill, describing their encampment and recommending various promotions.

Since state Civil War collections are so varied, I can’t say whether the information would be different from what’s in your ancestors’ CMSRs. But even if the state record doesn't have previously unknown details, You'll have new evidence of your ancestor's presence at the place and time the record was created.

If my ancestor were in the Ohio 27th, I’d want to know whether his commanding officers had anything to say about him, and where he was in June, 1862. (You can browse abstracts of these letters, as well an index to Ohio prisoners at Andersonville and a guide to Civil War-related primary source collections, on the archives’ Web site.)

Start by searching your ancestral state archives' online catalog for Civil War-era materials related to your ancestor, his regiment, or the county and town where he lived. Likely, you won’t know from the catalog listing whether the source mentions your ancestor, so you may have to visit the archives or contact an archivist for help.

You might be able to save yourself the trip by borrowing materials through interlibrary loan, ordering photocopies of documents or seeing if the Family History Library has microfilmed copies (which you can rent through a Family History Center).

Check local historical society and university libraries for Civil War collections, too.

And learn nine steps to researching your Civil War ancestors in the July 2007 Family Tree Magazine. You can get bonus information and links to additional resources—including those at the state level—on our Web site.


military records
Wednesday, August 08, 2007 2:55:51 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, July 27, 2007
Learning Your Ethnic Heritage Through DNA
Posted by Diane

Q What's the best source for DNA testing for all ethnic groups?

A It sounds like you’re looking for a DNA test that shows your ethnic heritage, rather than whether you’re related to someone. Several types of tests accomplish this to some degree.

Biogeographical tests
Tests such as DNA Print Genomics’ AncestryByDNA evaluate autosomal DNA, which makes up all your genetic material except for what’s on the XX and XY chromosomes.

AncestryByDNA looks for markers that are characteristic of various groups to estimate your percentages of heritage from four populations: Native American, East Asian, Sub-Saharan African (areas south of the Sahara Desert) and Indo-European (Europe, Middle East, North Africa, Western Asia). The EuroDNA 1 and 2 tests further break down Indo-European heritage.

These tests won’t tell you what country your ancestors came from. Also, there’s a margin of error—most show that in the form of a bar graph with your most likely percentages along with other possible percentages.

Haplogroup tests
Most genetic genealogy laboratories, such as Oxford Ancestry, can test your mitochondrial DNA and assign you to a haplogroup—the genetic group your ancient ancestors (10,000 to 60,000 years ago) belonged to. The haplogroup R1b, for example, is common to Western Europeans.

That’s great to know, but not super-helpful for genealogical purposes because records identifying your ancestors don’t go back 10,000 years. Also, haplogroup information comes from a small section of your tree because you get your mitochondrial DNA from your mother’s mother’s mother’s mother’s (I could go on) mother.

Population comparison tests
Some companies test your DNA and compare certain markers to proprietary databases of DNA results from various populations. You get a report showing which populations your DNA most closely matched. DNAConsulting’s DNA Fingerprint test, for example, compares your sample to a database called Omnipop. You get a list of strongest and "medium-strong" matches, and people with European heritage can get a list of likely country matches.

African Ancestry performs similar comparisons to its database of DNA from African tribes.

Keep in mind the accuracy of these tests is limited by the DNA samples in the comparison database. Not all the world’s diverse populations have been sampled, so your best match may not be a close match at all.

And due to migrations of populations and national boundaries, your DNA could be similar to that of a modern resident of a particular country, but not to that area’s historical population. Since these DNA databases are growing, though, a good match may pop up down the road.

The best genetic genealogy company for you depends on what you want to know, and what you think your ethnicity is (since different companies’ comparison databases may be stronger in different areas). Genetic genealogy experts recognize DNA science is in its infancy, and urge you to back up test results with traditional research. So if a test shows you have DNA markers consistent with American Indians, you wouldn’t consider those results ironclad until you find genealogical records of American Indian ancestors.

For our layperson’s guide to using DNA in your genealogy research, along with DNA testing company contact information, see the October 2006 Family Tree Magazine.


genetic genealogy
Friday, July 27, 2007 2:17:35 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]